How technology improves the quality of pet food.
In recent years, the market for dog and cat food has been among the most dynamic markets in Europe and the world, with an overall average annual growth of more than 5%. This trend, coupled with improved basic health culture, has boosted the development of products with a substantial technological element.
Products intended for pet animals can be distinguished according to water content and their stability over time: dry food and canned pet food, appear to have longer shelf life due to the limited water content and pasteurization process, respectively.
From a technological point of view, products with a moderate moisture content appear to be more advanced, as due to the presence of wetting agents, the products attain greater stability through control of the activity of water, while enhancing a better palatability.
An indispensable stage in production and one which is found in nearly all processes, is the cooking phase, which takes the form of extrusion, particularly inthe production of dry foods. Also, in the extrusion process, extruders are connected to a cylinder head. These new technologies boost both productivity and versatility of the ingredients.
Obtaining higher fat content
With the extrusion technology, it is possible to manufacture products with a higher fat content, while extrusion with the simultaneous coating of a product – through vacuum infusion – is a variant ofthis innovation.
Increased liquid content
Thanks to the extrusion process, products maintain more than 35% of the liquid content, which results in a soft but not spongy product. Moreover, if carried out at the right temperature and pressure, extrusion significantly improves a product’s pasteurization.
Products with two structures
Another current technological innovation is steam treating products prior to the extrusion stage, so as to facilitate and anticipate the gelatinization of the product.
The thus established co-extrusion process provides the possibility of manufacturing products with two structures, whilst also protecting them as the coating increases their long-term stability.
Modulating glycaemic response
Thanks to the technological evolution of the extrusion process, it is also possible to modulate the glycaemic response in animals to the food. This can be achieved by using other sources of starch, such as sorghum, which is notoriously less digestible than the more traditional starch sources such as rice, maize, thus enabling control of the glycaemic response to food in animals with diabetes.
Another particularly important phase of the extrusion process is the drying stage. Products with a low water content generally contain less than 12% moisture. While values above this level make them better from a gustatory point of view, they also make them vulnerable to microbiological instability. The dryers should therefore have a proper quality control system and especially a homogeneous effect to avoid the compromises in the product structure.
The cooling step, before packaging, is also of significant importance for obtaining a homogeneous and stable structure. Cooling systems have recently undergone substantial improvement with an emphasis placed mainly on health. Problems generally arise in this stage in the cleaning step, inparticular in ribbon extruders. Some installations use sensors that are used to obtain specific parameters such as density, digestibility and organoleptic characteristics, consistency, and of course residual moisture, which can be programmed in the machine. The extruder then creates a product that possesses the characteristics specified.
Improved pet food
The pet food segment is constantly evolving thanks to the development of new production technologies resulting in improved achievementsfrom a nutritional point of view. This explains the significant market penetration of industrial pet food manufacturers, which produce food according to the latest techniques in order to meet ever-increasingquality demands from pet owners.
In some cases, the pet food industry is an extension of the products from the human food industries. In fact, the pet food industry effectively use and enhance slaughter waste, some cereals not suitable to human food and other by-products that wouldotherwise only be disposed as waste.
By contrast, in the high-end food sector, we have witnessed intensive innovation activities by leading companies and a continuous process of expansion and segmentation in recent years, all ensuing fromthe technological evolution of industrial plant production processes.
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